Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sexism and Racism in my Warcraft

Every time I turn around lately, I seem to be running into stereotypes about Warcraft that I would love to deny but I just can't. Warcraft players are immature, racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynists and I want to say, no. My guild isn't. My friends aren't.

Maybe we're a subset, because goddamn, the rest of the community is an exercise in depression.

There are guilds out there that reject you as a raider if you're a woman (read their application requirements). Which. I don't know. The name and the aggressively anti-gender attitude is upsetting but whatever. Their loss. I'd certainly never apply or play with them.

We're so used to terms like "rape" and "fag" being used in PvP and Raiding environments that we just accept them now and create a hostile environment for people who're hurt by them.

When I see people writing feminist blogs about Warcraft and the issues at hand, when I see other blog entries grappling with the impact that casual use of worlds like rape - which, by the way, in a word, promises horrific and very specific violence against a particular gender - I don't understand why the rest of the Warcraft community doesn't want to stand up and say, "Fuck this, I'm not going to tolerate someone using these terms in my guild, in my raid, in my presence, period."

And the thing is, if that happens in my raid, I can step up and tell that person to shut up and if they contest me on it, I will kick them. Hell, before I do a thing, my Guild Leader who's an amazing feminist woman herself, will probably have that person on their ass outside the instance portal.

We won't tolerate homophobia, or sexism, or misogyny in our raids, not because we play with a lot of women, and not because we have people of all sexualities in our raids, but because it's just fucking wrong.

Guild raids are a controlled environment, I'm in a raid with my guildies, and my friends, and they'll back me up. Things are different when you PuG. If I'm in a PuG where I see a lot of this happening, I will drop and go find a non hostile environment. But a few weeks ago, I ran into a different kind of environment and my reaction there was really unexpected.

Halfway through an ICC 25, someone began to sing a Skinhead songs. If you're interested, it was the words to a song called, "The White Man Marches On" that this person wanted to share with us. Look them up.

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and no matter how much I want to say now that I pressed that push to talk and said, "Kick him or I'll drop," I sat there petrified instead. A second of stunned silence passed and then Vent broke up with scattered giggles, a few people moaned that "now some bleeding hearts will drop raid" and then the Raid Lead chuckled, and said, "Someone is griefing us, let's just keep going."

And they went on with jokes that were maybe less overt but no less hurtful.

Now, I've been gaybashed in the real world, I've been racially attacked, never physically, but I've had someone walk up to me and a friend of mine and threatened to fuck us fags up if they ever saw us on campus again just because they thought we were gay. Right after 9/11 my family faced a fair amount of discrimination in small upstate-NY towns. My Caucasian wife of six years is frequently assumed to be alone when we're out together.

This sort of experience - vocal violence, aggressive discrimination, casual but unintentional racism - is not something new to me. I felt like I knew how to handle myself in these circumstances, in these situations, but in that raid, I didn't.

I shut down. I didn't say anything. It was just so bleak and depressing. Nobody else said anything about it other than to build on it without being quite so outrageous. I don't know why it bugged me so much, or the way it affected me, but really, I felt even more emasculated that I didn't do or say anything, so I stood there for a bit while they kept pulling trash, and then I just dropped raid and logged out.

Maybe it was the level of violence that the song was promising. Maybe it was something about the casual way in which twenty-four other people took this threat. I don't know.

This doesn't take a lot of effort to work out. Language has power, it affects us in profound ways, and if you don't stand up for your friends and colleagues, then you're letting these insensitive people victimize them.

I don't want to see this sort of sexist and racist and homophobic behavior continue. I don't know that I can really make a difference other than to control the limited environment in which I have influence, but Goddamnit, I'm sick of the casual way these words are used. When words become a casual part of speech and language, they become acceptable, and the person hearing those words is forced to accept them as part of a chain of abuse.

These things are not casual. They never were.


  1. *applauds*

    Thanks for this, and for the link to the feminist WoW blog. You're certainly right that language has power, and that abuse and threats of abuse should never be taken casually. Hopefully, as small as each of our spheres of influence are, we're able to make a tiny bit of difference in the way WoW players act and are perceived.

  2. Yeah, it is enraging. And the worst thing is that there's not much you can do about strangers since commenting on their attention seeking behaviour (because that's usually WHY they're doing it- they want attention) is giving them exactly what they want.

    It makes me really sad that it's that vocal minority that gives the rest of WoW players a bad name.